North Dakota lawmakers are taking another crack at undoing the state's ban on Sunday morning shopping.
State Rep. Shannon Roers Jones, R-Fargo, said Wednesday she's introducing legislation to repeal most of the Sunday closing law, allowing retailers to choose whether to open their doors that morning.
“The basic idea is to put the decision-making power back in the hands of the business owner,” she said. “We’re basically taking the government out of the decision-making process.”
The bill would also prevent retailers from being forced to open on Sunday as part of a lease, franchise agreement or other contract executed before Jan. 1.
Roers Jones is hopeful public support and some turnover in the Republican-controlled Legislature will help push her bill across the finish line. A similar effort failed by just two votes in the state Senate in 2017, with some opposing it on religious grounds. One lawmaker called the bill “selfish consumerism.”
The primary sponsor of that bill, Fargo Democratic Rep. Pam Anderson, said she would reintroduce the legislation next year. Roers Jones said she hadn’t yet talked to Anderson about the repeal effort ahead of the 2019 session, which begins Jan. 3.
Republican Gov. Doug Burgum supports repealing the Sunday closing law, a spokesman said.
A range of businesses are exempted from the state law that makes it a Class B misdemeanor to operate a business that’s open to the public before noon on Sunday, including restaurants, hotels and hospitals. But North Dakota shoppers have been known to wait patiently in store parking lots and travel across state lines on Sunday mornings.
Brandon Medenwald, the co-founder of a Fargo app development firm, dropped a campaign to repeal the law at the ballot box and instead mounted an unsuccessful run for the Legislature this year. The nonprofit group he founded, North Dakota Open on Sundays, said Wednesday it would relaunch its efforts during the legislative session by highlighting the “unwieldy and unenforceable” law and publicizing legislators’ positions.
Christopher Dodson, executive director of the North Dakota Catholic Conference, said his organization’s opposition to the proposed repeal hasn’t changed.
“It really comes down to if you put individualism and profit over families and communities,” he said. “I think … many North Dakotans like the way of life in North Dakota and they want to preserve that.”